Dramatic and startling photos of a Delta Air Lines Airbus A320 are circulating on social media this morning after the plane slammed into a wall of hail and lightning. The extreme weather punched in the aircraft’s nose cone, shattered the windscreen and left the pilots to land blind in emergency conditions as the radar failed.
Photos of Delta flight 1889, taken by a passenger and posted on the website of Salt Lake City television channel KSTU, show major damage.
The flight from Boston to Salt Lake City, carrying 125 passengers and five crew, diverted to Denver International Airport after ploughing into the hailstorm. It landed safely.
The extreme event, which tends to bear out anecdotal evidence of weather getting rougher in the skies, forced the plane to plummet 14,000 feet in two minutes, news reports stated. That distance is about 4.3 kilometres, meaning the plane plunged at over two kilometres a minute as hailstones were sucked into the engines. That’s some roller-coaster.
KSTU quoted passengers saying they held hands and cried as the wall of hail pummelled the plane. The channel quoted a frequent flier aboard the flight saying it was “the scariest 10 minutes of my life”.
Simon Hradecky’s Aviation Herald reported “hail and lightning causing both windshields to crack and the weather radar to fail.
“The crew declared emergency, reporting cracked windshields and failed weather radar and decided to divert to Denver.
“Emergency crews prepared to treat injuries after arrival of the aircraft. On final approach the crew advised there were no known injuries on board, they would stop on the runway due to visibility problems as result of both windshields being cracked, they requested an ILS [instrument landing system] approach due to the visibility problems.”
The control tower’s comment after the plane landed safely: “Very nice job, sir!”
Written by Peter Needham